Stefan Zweig

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Stefan Zweig
Birthday
BirthplaceVienna, Austria-Hungary
Died
Occupation
Novelist, playwright, journalist and biographer

Zweig, Stefan

 

Born Nov. 28, 1881, in Vienna; died Feb. 22, 1942, in Petrópolis, Brazil. Austrian writer.

Zweig studied Romance and Germanic philology at the universities of Vienna and Berlin. He did a great deal of traveling in Europe, Indochina, North America, and South America. In 1928 he visited the USSR and followed with interest the successes of the building of socialism. During World War I he adopted a pacifist position. He lived abroad from 1934, in Great Britain, the USA, and Brazil. Unable to bear separation from his native country and driven to despair because of the war, Zweig committed suicide.

In his collections of short stories Erstes Erlebnis (1911), Amok (1922), and Conflicts (1927), Zweig sought to penetrate the dark corners of psychology, portraying—sometimes with a touch of melodrama—the complex conflicts in the personal lives of his heroes. His social vision as a writer, however, was limited: his relation to the “little man” did not go beyond compassion and the condemnation of the ugliness of bourgeois mores. The novel Beware of Pity (1939) is similar in tone to his short stories.

An important place in Zweig’s work is occupied by his biographical novels, essays, and sketches. Although not always factually accurate and often arbitrary (sometimes even oversimplified) in describing the life and work of historical persons, such as Stendhal, L. N. Tolstoy, Freud, and Nietzsche, Zweig’s subjective biographies win one over with their inventiveness of critical thought, ability to re-create historical color, and understanding of the psychology of the creative personality. These traits can be seen in his essays about E. Verhaeren (1917) and R. Rolland (1921) and in the cycle of biographies Master Builders (1920–28). Zweig worked for about 30 years on a biography of Balzac, which was published in 1946. The abstractness of Zweig’s humanist views is especially evident in his memoirs, The World of Yesterday (published 1944), and in the collection of speeches, essays, and critical articles entitled Meetings With People, Books, and Cities (1937). His final flashes of faith in courage and the daring of human genius in the novels Conqueror of the Seas: The Story of Magellan (1938) and Americo (published 1942) could not resolve the crisis that for long had dominated Zweig’s work and world outlook.

WORKS

Ausgewählte Werke, vols. 1–2. Düsseldorf, 1960.
St. Zweig, Fr. Zweig: Briefwechsel. Bern [1951].
R. Strauss, St. Zweig: Briefwechsel. [Frankfurt am Main] 1957.
M. Gorki, St. Zweig: Briefwechsel. Leipzig, 1971.
In Russian translation:
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–12. Foreword by M. Gorky. Leningrad, 1928–32.
Sobr. soch., vols. 1–7. Moscow, 1963. (Introductory article by B. L. Suchkov.)

REFERENCES

Lunacharskii, A. V. Foreword to Stefan Zweig, Sobr. soch., vol. 10. Leningrad [1932].
Fedin, K. Pisatel’, Iskusstvo, Vremia. Moscow, 1961.
Suchkov, B. L. Liki vremeni. Moscow, 1976.
Zweig, F. R. Stefan Zweig: Eine Bildbiographie. [Munich, 1961.]
Prater, D. A. European of Yesterday: A Biography of Stefan Zweig. Oxford, 1972.
Klawiter, R. J. Stefan Zweig: A Bibliography. Chapel Hill, N.C. [1965].

M. L. RUDNITSKII